Sitting right at the most Northerly part of Italy, amongst hillside farms and with stunning views of the Dolomite mountains you can find the Italian region known as Bolzano. With almost 100,000 inhabitants in the region, it is quite a large tourist destination set among such stunning views. The Gothic, medieval styled buildings, complete with turrets and faded frescoes, have a distinctly Northern European feel to them. However, traditional houses with modern architecture designed to fit in make the area an amazing location to visit. Bolzano has long been a popular location for visitors who want a different taste of Italy and it is a great location to visit when on a skiing holiday.
There is more to the draw of the region than just the sights and atmosphere of the area though. There is also the livelihood of Bolzano – the people in the area are extremely friendly and active. Squares act as a place for people to gather and for the tourists to mingle with the locals, enjoying the traditional festivities and foods on offer. Let’s take a look at what makes Bolzano such an interesting destination for your Italian trip…
In a nutshell…
Bolzano is often referred to as the gateway to the Dolomites. It’s quite a unique place, sitting in a quiet valley surrounded by the forest covered slopes and mountainous backdrop. Looking up from the town is something you will never forget. And something that makes it even better is that the centre of town is traffic-free, meaning the peace of the landscape extends into the squares and piazzas and creates an ambience of a traditional Italian town.
The town began to be built sometime around the 12th and 13th century and much of the old architecture is still evident. Bolzano is made up of five quarters, as well as the quaint little mountain village called Colle di Villa (well worth a trip).
The Food of Bolzano
One of the most enjoyable parts of visiting this fine region of Italy is the cooking. Bolzano is known for authentic country cooking that can be found in many of its restaurants. Some of the local restaurants have even been open since the 12th Century or earlier. Traditional local dishes include bauernplatte, deer stew, fish, leberknodel, melons, and goulash. There is an excellent article on exploring the food and restaurants of Bolzano on the Honest Cooking website.
Bolzano isn’t just a traditional city, you can find some modern marvels of restaurants tucked away here and there. Look for the local brew house that serves an outstanding selection of beers. Local beers and imported beers tend to have the best flavor as there is a heavy German and Bavarian influence in the area.
Our Tip: Food portion sizes tend to be on the large size in Bolzano so bear that in mind when ordering your dishes!
Local Italian Wine
If Italy is known for anything outside of the country besides pizza, it’s the wine. There have always been wineries in Bolzano and currently there are four operating in Bolzano, three of them are private and one is a cooperative. The red wines offered from this region are considered to be the best, thanks in part to the lush landscape that the vineyards are on. You can tour the wineries and wine cellars in addition to enjoying the tastes of the wines. Bolzano also has many wine shops that ensure you will not leave empty handed!
This ancient castle is North of the city and was built in the 1200’s. It has big stone walls, a beautiful view, and a rich history. Inside the castle, you will not just find what you would expect from a castle but also incredible paintings. Frescoes depict many different scenes on the walls of the castle and they are considered as some of the best remaining examples from the middle ages. The castle has many cultural exhibitions and events throughout the year and also features a restaurant so you can spend a whole day looking around the ancient place and not get hungry.
There are three other castles in Bolzano so if you enjoy stepping back in time you will not be disappointed here. In fact, in Trentino Alto Adige (Bolzano being a region of this territory) there are over 400 castles scattered around the mesmerising landscape, many of which can still be visited.
Bolzano plays host to two well-known museums, the Museion and the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology. The Museion is full of both contemporary and modern art. A laboratory and additional space allow the Museion to accept rotating exhibits and conduct experiments. Its home is also one of the more modern buildings in Bolzano and is its own work of art.
The South Tyrol Museum of Archeology contains major archeological discoveries. Among them is Otzi the iceman, the oldest intact glacier mummy that has been found to this day. Otzi is the main attraction of the museum and the reason that the museum was built. Seeing a man who lived more than 5,300 years ago in such a preserved state is worth visiting Bolzano for alone. You can also see a fascinating reconstruction of how he would have looked like on the last day of his life.
There are several other museums in Bolzano such as the Museum for Natural History which has a very popular marine aquarium.
Ride the cable cars for the ultimate views
From the heart of Bolzano, you can take several cable cars to the heart of the nearby Renon Hills. Both from the cable car and from the top of the hill you are greeted with amazing views and fresh small town air. It’s hard to deny that the scenes seen from the cable car will be the best of your trip with incredible views of the surrounding landscape, including the stunning Dolomite mountains in the near distance and San Genesio forests. The cable cars can hold around 30 people at a time and travel every few minutes. To travel the cable car it takes roughly 12 minutes and costs 6-10 euros.
Puez-Geisler Nature Park
If you have time during your trip to take a break from city life you should try exploring the Puez-Geisler Nature Park that is located around Bolzano. This park offers trees, animals, mountain views and features outstanding nautral scenery. On a clear day it will take your breath away, but thankfully the air is so fresh around here that you won’t mind! It is a favourite region of many visitors looking for space and scenery without any noise. Don’t forget your camera because the park will leave you with thousands of pictures that you want to capture. You will either need to take a tour trip to the park or drive yourself. It isn’t within walking range of the city and those who explore the park wouldn’t have the energy to walk back anyway! It’s right at the heart of the Dolomites and covers an area of 10,703 hectares whilst reaching an average height of 2,500 metres.
So there we are. Hopefully our guide to Bolzano will have got you excited about visiting this little known area of Italy. You can find even more information at www.bolzano-bozen.it which we highly recommend. If you do travel to Bolzano make sure that you come back to our website and leave comments about your trip. We would love to hear them and so would our other visitors!